Golfer Aditi Ashok was rueful when she found out it was a seven-shot lead that she blew on the final round of the Asian Games women’s golf tournament to miss out on a maiden gold medal.
“Seven is worse,” Aditi said with a wistful smile after finishing with an aggregate of 17-under 271 at the West Lake International Golf Course on Sunday.
The 25-year-old would have had flashbacks from 2021 when in the last round of the Tokyo Olympics, she went from a silver medal position overnight to finish fourth in inclement weather conditions.
The parallels would have been there for all to see since Aditi was in pole position until the 16th hole in Hangzhou, where she struggled with her drives against the strong chilly winds coming in from the mountains in the background. Leading after three rounds of 67, 66 and 61, even Aditi couldn’t have foreseen a terrible round of 77.
Aditi had a steady start to the day, with several fans making their way into the picturesque West Lake Course to show their support to the local favourite Xiyu Lin, who was touted to be the strongest challenger to the Indian.
The local crowd tried their best to maintain silence before each stroke of Lin’s as the tournament moved into the tense final few rounds.
Both Aditi and Lin faltered and Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol, who was in third place for much of the round, closed the gap to the top and found the opening.
A bogey from the Indian on the 15th hole and a double bogey, when she hit it in the water, on the 16th allowed Yubol to edge into the lead. Aditi’s bogey on the 15th would have surprised her after she recorded a par and two birdies on the hole in the last three rounds.
“If you hit bad shots, you can get away with it sometimes, but if you hit them in the wind, it can get even worse. That’s what happened on a few holes,” said Aditi, who didn’t have her parents -- who usually caddie for her -- on the bag at the Asiad.
By the time Aditi corrected her driver, Yubol, who shot four under par in the last round, had done enough to claim the gold.
She simply put it, “When you hit the water, there’s no way of coming back from it... That was definitely where it unravelled.”
The 21-year-old Yubol capitalised by making six birdies to Aditi’s one in the ninth hole.
“Definitely anybody would see it as gold lost, and it was my tournament to lose, and I basically did that. Credit to her [Yubol] as well - she played great. She shot 4-under par in these conditions, which is pretty good. She had the chance to catch up from the back, and she played a good round. She forced me to play well, and I didn’t, so that’s definitely a gold lost,” said the 25-year-old.
For Aditi, who is in the midst of her best season on tour and having broken into the top 50 rankings for the first time in her career, the rare ‘bad day at the office’ would be a tough one to take.
“I don’t think my mindset coming into today affected the outcome. I shot a 11 under and 5 over which I don’t think I have done all season. I guess it just had to happen today,” she said.
Aditi admitted that the overnight positions before the final round can have a bearing on the golfer’s approach.
“Yeah, I am not gonna lie. It wasn’t easy. The way your mind works is when you are behind you are always thinking of the good stuff you can do to catch up. But when you are leading, I don’t know [if] it’s good or not, but the mind looks at what can go wrong,” she said.
“Not that that’s what happened. I just played bad too. It definitely wasn’t easy knowing that I have to play good or bad to win the tournament.”
Indian challengers Pranavi Urs and Avani Prashanth also had underwhelming final rounds as they finished with 4-under-284 and 3-over 291 as India slipped three positions overnight from leaders to fourth.
In the men’s event, India had a disappointing outing, with none of the four Indians finishing in the top 10.
Aniraban Lahiri was the highest-ranked Indian at 12th, with a total of 17-under-274. Hitesh Josh and SP Chawrasia finished 27th and 29th, while Shubhankar Sharma managed only 32nd place.
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